Trailer mods and a couple of questions

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Ray Clark

Well-known member
TinBoats Supporter
Jun 6, 2021
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Treynor, Iowa
I'm in the process of modifying the trailer that carries my 14' Lund tinnie. The trailer is structurally sound, but was not original with the boat. The trailer is (or actually was), too short for this boat. I don't know who paired the trailer with the boat; that was done at least two owners back. The trailer, while having a Spartan brand name, is titled as homemade. Like the boat pairing, the homemade designation goes back at least two owners.

Here's a pic of the original setup.

boat & truck.jpg

I'm modifying the trailer because there are several issues that the original configuration presents.

First issue: The trailer axle is nearly under the center bench of the boat. It has almost no tongue weight; I estimate tongue weight to be about 30 pounds at the most. This leaves a very minor bit of a side-to-side wobble when towing at speed.

Second issue: The winch post is too close to the tow vehicle. The only way I can let the tailgate down on the truck with the trailer on the hitch is to have the whole setup absolutely straight. Even that situation only allows about an inch of clearance between the top of the tailgate and the winch post.

Third issue: I have to back the truck too far down the ramp to launch and recover the boat. I'd like a little more room so that I don't have to get wet feet every time I recover the boat.

Fourth issue: I have to use a jerry-rigged ratchet strap setup to strap the boat for trailering. I'd like the straps to clear the bottom edge of the transom when they're hooked to the boat.

Fifth issue: There's only about 1/4" of clearance between the transom saver and the bottom edge of the transom when the boat is loaded on the trailer.

Sixth issue: The bunks are a mess, and I've let that situation go on far too long. I'm going to reconfigure the bunks to provide better support.

I've now welded an extension onto the tongue; the trailer is now 45" longer than original. Here's what that looks like:

Extension weld.jpg

I put the boat back on the trailer and I'm now working to get the rest of the configuration right. The keel is resting on two of the three center rollers. The only roller it doesn't contact when loaded is the roller at the aft end. The forward-most roller is about under the boat's center bench. I think I need to add one more roller forward of that point to preclude the boat's keel contacting the trailer tongue when recovering and loading onto the trailer. Any thoughts anybody has on that aspect are welcome. Here's a picture of those rollers:

Keel rollers.jpg

The winch post raises my next question: Should the bow eye be underneath the rubber boat stop on that post or above it? The bow eye has been above that rubber stop ever since I've had the boat. This is my first boat, so I have no experience to lean on. The whole thing is easily reconfigured. Pic:

Winch post & bow eye.jpg

My last question concerns the position of the transom over the back end of the trailer. Should the bottom corner of the transom be aligned with the aft end of the trailer? I'm thinking so, and the bunks should likely protrude beyond the transom by an inch or two. I still have the ability to move the boat forward or rearward on the trailer very easily. As you can see in one of the pics above, I'm using a chain hoist to an overhead I-beam in the shop. Shifting the position of the boat fore or aft only takes a couple of minutes and can be done by me working alone. Here's a pic of how the transom position on the trailer right now. As you can see, the bunks are a mess and I'll fix those just as soon as I'm settled on the exact position of the boat on the trailer.

transom over trailer end.jpg

Other items yet to be done are tail light brackets, rewiring, repainting, and possibly the addition of "bump boards" to the sides of the trailer so that solo recovery is easier in windy conditions.

It has been a blessing to have a fishing buddy who has a good welder, and that he knows how to use it.

Thanks for any thoughts you have on the questions I posed in this lengthy post.
Looks to me like you have thought thru this quite well. As far as the bunks, they should stick out an inch or two from the transom or at least flush with it, but more does not hurt anything !! By moving yours forward you would be adding more support for the hull towards the front. Adding an extra keel roller is never a bad idea. The bow eye should be under the bow stop, this helps keep the bow down in case of an accident. Also add a safety chain from the tongue up to the bow eye that has very little play in it. Side guides are always a great idea !! Keep them close to the rear for best effect. My suggestions come from a boater with over 60 years of boating, all aluminum boats!!
@airshot is right on the money. I would add/reinforce a couple of things.

The tongue weight you describe is a safety issue. Move the boat or the axle or whatever you need do to get at least 10% to 15% of the total weight on the tongue.

The transom does not need to be directly over the rear trailer cross member, but it does need to be fully supported by the bunks. Having multiple keel rollers or pads for loading is a good idea. I'm not a fan of having the keel resting in contact with more than one center roller as it creates a potential hard point that could put a divot in the hull. Instead think of a three-leg stool that won't wobble. Two legs are the bunks and the third leg is the roller under the bow. Not everyone agrees with this.

Transom saver clearance issue: Hard to say but my first thought is lowering the motor while maintaining ground clearance may give more comfortable clearance. I personally don't use a traditional transom saver. I use one of the wedge products (m-y wedge).
I had the same trailer under my 14' Alumacraft. It was designed as a tilt trailer and I had a lot of difficulty loading it without using the tilt. I usually walked out on the trailer and guided it up by hand, which ended up in wet feet more than once. Otherwise it was pretty much impossible to drive it on straight, those rollers are too narrow.

My plan (I ended up selling it before I could modify it to my liking) was to remove one roller, and replace the other two with wide V-shaped self centering rollers. These wouldn't be in contact with the keel when loaded, but the bow could ride up on them while loading and center the boat. Along with that, I wanted to make the bunks longer, and place them so they engage the strakes in the hull on the way up.

My last addition would've been some short side bunks to keep the boat from drifting off the back of the trailer on steeper ramps.

I would agree that it seems to be a little nose high, and that maybe the bow eye should go under the bow stop, although I'm sure it leveled out some with the longer tongue.

As for placement on the trailer, I would make the bunks about an inch or two past the rear support, and set the boat on where the transom is right inline with it. All the weight is directly inline that way, and well supported.
Thanks to all for the inputs so far.

Right now I'm mulling the general bunk mounting concept. My intention is to add one cross member to the frame from side to side and fab the vertical supports from steel I already have on hand. I'll have the boat on the trailer braced in position so that I can fit them and pin them in place for final welding. I think I'll make the mounts at the top of vertical supports swivel a bit side-to-side so that the bunks are a bit forgiving on specific angles when I recover and load the boat at the ramp. I intend for the bunks to extend 1-2 inches past the transom. My limiting factor on bunk placement is the transducer. I could move the transducer, but there are a number of factors that make the bunks easier to deal with than that transducer.

I haven't figured out the side bunks/guides and how I'll mount them. My design method is to search the innerwebs for lots of pictures and then kluge an idea that can be affixed to my situation.

I understand Mr G's comment about the boat appearing nose high. It's a tad higher in the bow, but mostly the illusion of being bow-high comes from the angle of the picture. That picture was the best I had; it's from a couple years ago and clearly showed the too-far-forward placement of the axle. The keel height above the centerline tongue is fairly consistent.

Like Mr G's Spartan, this trailer is also a tilt trailer...or was a tilt trailer until last Monday. I've never used that feature and don't intend to, so I had my fishing buddy put welds along that tilting portion to fix it in place. I'll cut the tilt lock off and grind it smooth.

Transom saver: Moving the back cross member of the trailer to the new position has solved the transom saver issue. I'll shorten the saver and may even be able to pull the boat with the motor in a higher position so as to keep the skeg in a safer place.

Winch post: My winch post is a bolt-up affair, so I can easily swap positions of the winch and that front bow roller bar. I understand the recommendations for another safety line that holds the bow eye to the trailer tongue and will incorporate that.

Tongue weight has increased substantially and is probably about 70 pounds right now with the boat on the trailer. In traveling configuration, my guess is that the whole rig will weigh about 1100 pounds. That 70 pound tongue weight will increase as I reinstall the decks, the casting deck pedestal seat, trolling motor and mount, and all the other bric-a-brac that goes with a boat configured for use (safety gear, fishing tackle, etc.) Some of that will be offset by the 130 pound outboard and 3 gallon fuel tank at the rear of the boat. I'm confident that I'll achieve that 10-15% ratio.

It's 25 degrees outside this morning and we might be seeing some snow later today. I'm blessed to have a heated shop and a 2 ton overhead hoist for this job. It takes about 5 minutes to lift the boat off the trailer to keep the work moving ahead. It's fun to be out there moving at my own pace with a football game on the TV and hot cup of coffee in hand.

However, I do have some commissioned wood working pieces I need to get done and so the boat will have to move back on the priority list into working time slots as they become available.
Finally got all the trailer mods done yesterday and put the boat back on the trailer. Here she is after rolling it out of the shop.

Trailer After Picture.jpg

To recap, modifications to the trailer include:

- 45" longer
- Axle moved 22" aft (relative to the hull)
- Additional keel roller just aft of the bow
- New bunks, including full support for the transom; this required adding cross members and vertical bunk supports on the trailer frame
- New transom strap anchor points on the aft end of the trailer
- Reconfigured winch post
- Reconfigured hitch safety chains
- New wiring
- New side marker lights (tail lights were upgraded last year)

Now all that's needed is a day of re-rigging to reinstall decks, batteries, outboard, trolling motor, and all the bric-a-brac that goes with it. Wheel bearings will get repacked. That will happen in mid-March as I prepare for the 2024 season.
Great looking rig!! How is your tongue weight with the changes -- did you get at least 10% to 15% on the hitch?

Tongue weight is about 70 pounds right now, but that isn't a good gauge. I still have a lot to put back into the hull -- decks, required safety gear, bow mount trolling motor, batteries (they get put in the battery box in the center bench which is forward of the axle), fishing tackle in the bench storage, and of course, outboard on the back that will offset some of the weight gain up front. I'm confident I'll easily achieve the minimum recommended percentage.

I'll post final pics when it's all rigged and ready to go. I took the "after" pic and quite honestly, I'm pleasantly surprised at how far the whole setup has come since I bought the boat in May 2020. I might make a whole new build thread to show what I started with and what I did along the way. It has taken 3 1/2 years to get to this point, but I've been using the boat and having some good fishing outings along the way.
Finally got all the trailer mods done yesterday and put the boat back on the trailer. Here she is after rolling it out of the shop.

View attachment 118508

To recap, modifications to the trailer include:

- 45" longer
- Axle moved 22" aft (relative to the hull)
- Additional keel roller just aft of the bow
- New bunks, including full support for the transom; this required adding cross members and vertical bunk supports on the trailer frame
- New transom strap anchor points on the aft end of the trailer
- Reconfigured winch post
- Reconfigured hitch safety chains
- New wiring
- New side marker lights (tail lights were upgraded last year)

Now all that's needed is a day of re-rigging to reinstall decks, batteries, outboard, trolling motor, and all the bric-a-brac that goes with it. Wheel bearings will get repacked. That will happen in mid-March as I prepare for the 2024 season.
Great looking rig !
You didn't ask for votes, but mine would be "yes" on the build thread.
Thanks for the encouragement. It will be a while since I need to make some baby furniture before doing any more work on the boat. I moved the boat to the machine shed where it's normally parked since I need the heated shop space now for the furniture project.
Well, Myself have same issue / Orig. owner for whatever reason & when did it ??? bought this trailer and the trailer is short boat hangs off back would say roughly 20 in. maybe / I am guessing as is cold outside I am in SHORTS INSIDE &NOT GOING OUTSIDE CAUSE SNOW ON GROUND🥶 but you get the idea it's a bit SHORT and shouldn't be like that & why?? only thing I can figure is easier to unload. More boat in water less trailer?? Any -who, I do not have all the toy's some of you guys do GARAGE / WELDER'S> KNOW HOW , so looks like I may have to do a trade-in as to get something to accommodate my 14ft troller/ I believe the trailer is for a 12 ft. is why i said 20 in. hang. any idea's during mean time // oh yeah! I drove this from center of PA all way home when first got it and dint have an issue at all. My only problem was engine on back with no transom saver and I tipped engine totally up and strapped down for 3 hr. ride home. OK AFTER LOOKING AT PIC' MAYBE NOT 20 " AROUND 12" TO 16" // OR SHOULD I MOVE WINCH FORWARD?ALONG W/ FRONT ROLLER?Thing is i dont want to get all congested up with stand crank ? sorry I thought I put pic' in ??:unsure:


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A couple of questions regarding placement of your winch post.

1. What do you pull the trailer with? If it's a P/U truck, can you lower the tailgate, or is the winch post in the way? If it's an SUV, can you raise the liftgate?

2. Does tailgate/liftgate operation require the trailer and pulling vehicle to be lined up straight to provide sufficient clearance?

I added one roller toward the bow end of the boat. That makes four on the trailer. When the boat is in position on the trailer, it has three points of contact; the two bunks toward the aft end and the bow-end roller. Then of course, there's the winch strap, safety chain, and two transom straps.
Update to follow up with results based on my modifications.

I got the boat out for the first time this season; life has been busy. I pulled the boat to the lake, launched, fished, loaded, and drove home. Put about 180 miles on the trailer.

Towing: Rock steady behind the truck up to nearly 70 mph. I don't tow faster than 70, so I really don't know how it would tow faster than that. In fact, I rarely exceed 65 with the boat or my utility trailer. Hubs were cool to the touch every time I checked after stopping. I estimate tongue weight at about 120 pounds when the boat and trailer is ready for highway travel. I haven't weighed the whole boat/trailer rig yet, but I suspect that it's about 1200 pounds when ready for travel.

Prep for launch: Moving the back end of the trailer to a position flush with the transom was a good move. Adding hooks for the tie down straps made for a much quicker and easier prep, and getting the transom saver unhitched and out of the way took less than 30 seconds.

Launch: Much better than the old configuration. The truck never touched the water, and that was something I had to do very time with the old configuration. The extra 45" of trailer length made a huge difference. I backed toward the water just until I saw the transom life off the bunks, and then got out and and nudged the boat off so I could tie it off to the dock.

Loading: Went OK, but I still have trouble getting lined up on center and so I had to make several attempts before I was successful. The trolling motor covers up the leading edge of the bow, so I can't see it from the tiller, I have to guess. Breezy conditions didn't help with my light boat. I need to rig a system for that as an improvement. I like the longer bunks I installed.

Post loading prep for the road: Remounting the transom saver and the transom straps took about 90 seconds. With the new trailer configuration, I only have to make sure that nothing is going to fly away as I go down the highway. I don't have to make a special effort to load weight ahead of the trailer axle to reduce trailer sway.

Improvements to be made:

- I want to add non-slip surface to the trailer tongue for better grip as I climb out of the boat onto the trailer tongue when loading the boat. I may add steps up front.

- I need a center designator on the trailer. I'll add a small fiberglass rod with bright orange ball sitting above the winch post, and may add a corresponding center marker that I can see on the bow of the boat for use when loading. I might add guide bunks like these to the trailer to help control lateral alignment in breezy conditions. I already have vertical guides (the white PVC type), but that's really more for me to be able to see the trailer in my rear view mirrors. Those vertical guides aren't much help in a cross wind when loading.
Your making good progress...after a few tries you will figure a routine, you might consider a " centering" roller at the back of the trailer, this will help get the boat centered. Being a lite weight tinnie, the wind can make it difficult at times, however, practice makes perfect, so get out more frequently and get that practice in !!
I have side bunks like the ones in your link, which by the way is a pretty darn good price. I think I paid about 3x that.

I like them a lot, especially in the wind. If I were doing it again, I think I would opt for the longer 5' ones that mount on two brackets.

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